Will police pay Murrin to go away?
By CHUCK POULSEN
The Daily Courier
The RCMP couldnít get a conviction against Shannon Murrin, but might they now pay off the man accused of killing Mindy Tran to avoid more bad publicity?
A Kelowna lawyer who was involved in the case suggests that is a distinct possibility now that Murrinís lawyer is filing suit against the force.
The public relations problem facing the RCMP will once again be the beating of Murrin by three men who were allegedly encouraged by former Sgt. Gary Tidsbury to forcibly extract a confession from the accused.
Tidsbury has denied in court the allegation that he put the three men up to the beating.
Murrin was nearly beaten to death shortly after Tranís body was found in Mission Creek Park in 1994. She was strangled and buried in a shallow grave.
"My gut reaction is that this will never go to trial," said lawyer Neville McDougall of Kidston and Company. "I donít think the RCMP will want to take a chance on a jury and the public believing the Three Amigos (as the three men have become known) and not believing Tidsbury or the RCMPís version of what actually happened."
McDougall was successful in getting charges dropped against one of the Three Amigos Ė Robert Holmes Ė because the case had been unduly delayed. A second man, Ken McDonald, also had the charges dropped against him for the same reason. The third man, Patrick Dunn, pleaded guilty shortly after he was charged and was given six months in jail.
A criminal jury must find an accused guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, but a jury in a civil action need only make a decision based upon the balance of probability.
McDougall said itís possible that some evidence that was ruled inadmissible in Murrinís criminal case would be allowed into the record in the civil case.
"The tendency in a civil case is to allow just about anything in as long as itís relevant," said McDougall. "Itís then a question of how much weight to give it."
For instance, McDougall said a confession that Murrin made to the Three Amigos when he was being beaten Ė which was not allowed into evidence in the criminal trial Ė might be heard by a civil jury.
However, McDougall said he didnít think that would work to Murrinís disadvantage.
"Heís such a personable guy that I think the jury would believe he was making it (the confession) up just to save his life. He was saying anything they wanted to hear just to stay alive."
If RCMP settled the case out of court, itís safe to say the amount would not be made public and that Murrin, too, would be required to keep it secret.
Reports into the investigation by the Victoria police and RCMP Insp. Ray Ambler, which have been heavily edited, might also be explored in more detail in the civil case.
A judge, rather than the Freedom of Information commissioner, would decide what information from those reports could be read to a jury.